Teaching Matters

Integrating Research & Teaching

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Teaching Matters 2017 | Presentation Details | 28 NovemberNov 2017


Integrating Research & Teaching: enhancing & extending the undergraduate experience


Alex Bissember, School of Physical Sciences – Chemistry


Making a Difference for Students

Presentation Type

Showcase Presentation


Social Sciences 213




Chemistry is an experimental science and the laboratory represents a cornerstone of chemical education. This core principle informs my approach to educating undergraduate Chemistry students. In my experience, providing students with exposure to fundamental research represents a crucial element in developing students’ understanding of and appreciation for chemistry. This includes highlighting germane research developments in the classroom and providing undergraduates with the opportunity to directly contribute to research projects in the laboratory.

Consistent with this central philosophy, since joining UTAS Chemistry in 2013, I have incorporated cutting-edge developments from my research lab into the undergraduate chemistry curriculum. In collaboration with my colleague A/Prof Jason Smith, I incorporated a new approach to natural product extraction into the undergraduate chemistry curriculum. This is now a permanent feature of the lab experiments in Organic and Bioorganic Chemistry units KRA224 and KRA341. In 2016, we published one of these new experiments.1 This work has already inspired the University of Sydney, University of Millersville (USA), and University College Dublin (Ireland) to incorporate this (or variations of this) new experiment into their undergraduate programs. I have also developed a new laboratory experiment for KRA342 Catalysis and Sustainable Reaction Processes, which represents one of the final tasks that undergraduates undertake before completing chemistry at UTAS. By design, this capstone learning experience also aims to simulate standard approaches and techniques that are employed to develop and optimize chemical reactions in the research laboratory.

In addition to redesigning and updating and the undergraduate chemistry laboratory program, I have also focused on integrating undergraduates into my research group and increasing the involvement of these students in research more generally. Prior to my arrival in UTAS Chemistry there was little undergraduate participation in research beyond the summer research program. Consequently, I have put considerable effort into improving this situation. Extending our interactions with undergraduates in this way enables us to enhance strategies aimed at improving the student experience and extends our ability to communicate (and demonstrate) the significance of fundamental research to undergraduates. I have noted its positive impact on student development and training and its role as an important mechanism for progression into Chemistry HDR programs. Since joining UTAS in 2013, I have supervised 9 undergraduate researchers and published 7 peer-reviewed original research papers featuring undergraduate co-authors.1-7

The above-mentioned developments and strategies aimed at enhancing and augmenting the undergraduate experience will be presented. The outcomes of these initiatives will be discussed from the perspective of both staff and students.

  1. Just, J.; Bunton, G. L.; Deans, B. J.; Murray, N. L.; Bissember, A. C.; Smith, J. A. J. Chem. Ed. 2016, 93, 213.
  2. Olivier, W. J.; Horne, J.; Kilah, N. L.; Bissember, A. C.; Smith, J. A. J. Nat. Prod. 2016, 79, 3117-3126.
  3. Nicholls, T. P.; Constable, G. C.; Robertson, J. R.; Gardiner, M. G.; Bissember, A. C ACS Catal. 2016, 6, 451.
  4. Abel, S.-A. G.; Olivier, W. J.; Pederson, R. L.; Bissember, A. C.; Smith, J. A. Aust. J. Chem. 2015, 68, 1815.
  5. Just, J.; Deans, B. J.; Olivier, W. J.; Paull, B.; Bissember, A. C.; Smith, J. A. Org. Lett. 2015, 17, 2428.
  6. Deans, B. J.; Just, J.; Chhetri, J.; Burt, L. K.; Smith, J. N.; Kilah, N. L.; de Salas, M.; Gueven, N.; Bissember, A. C.; Smith, J. A. ChemistrySelect 2017, 2, 2439.
  7. Deans, B. J.; Olivier, W. J.; Girbino, D.; Bissember, A. C.; Smith, J. A. Fitoterapia 2017, 123, doi:
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